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Jun 8, 2011 11:57 PM

Cambodian Catfish Amok at Chez Sovan (San Jose, Lunch Only)

Besides the outpost in Campbell, Chez Sovan has a lunch-only branch in San Jose that’s open weekdays from 11am to 1:30pm. On Monday I was finally on that stretch of 101 at the right time to check it out. This location doesn’t offer much in the way of décor or ambiance, yet the friendly and personable service goes a long way to compensate.

I was here for the amok, a mousse of catfish filets, coconut milk, lemongrass, lemon herb, and Cambodian spices steamed in a banana leaf. The $9 price tag, plus 75¢ for steamed rice seemed high considering the dive-y surroundings.

The amok was served without delay, hot and fresh from the steamer and heady with the fragrance of the banana leaf. Here’s the front view showing how the leaf wrapper is secured with a toothpick.

This is the side view of the triangular packet.

Once unwrapped, the insides don’t look terribly appetizing.

But you have to admire how carefully the filets of catfish are arranged, as revealed in this cross-section, and the overall tidiness of the preparation.

The texture of the barely-cooked-through catfish was fragile, almost buttery. Without the chili peppers of the Thai or Lao versions of this dish, the taste of the lemongrass and coconut come through more directly in the delicate custard.

On the way out, the proprietor pointed to a bowl on the counter and said, “Help yourself to our homemade desserts, take more than one.” Said bowl is filled with Reese’s peanut butter cups and Nestle’s crunch bars. I still think the prices are too high, but free homemade desserts and a jovial owner almost make it worth it.

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“Amok at Cambodian Restaurant, Chez Sovan in Campbell, Can Lead to MURDER... “

Chez Sovan
923 Oakland Rd, San Jose, CA 95112

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  1. how does it compare to the one at angkor borei?

    also, how much are you expecting for the dish? $9 doesn't seem that unreasonable...angkor borei charges $10 for theirs, although i'm not very familiar with that area of san jose so i have no idea about rents...

    3 Replies
    1. re: vulber

      I looked up the chowdown report for my one visit to Angkor-Borei . . . 2003, so my memories dim on that one.

      The portion at Chez Sovan is a single portion size. At That Luong, a similar sized rendition is $6.

      Angkor-Borei Restaurant
      3471 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      Chez Sovan
      923 Oakland Rd, San Jose, CA 95112

      That Luang Kitchen Lao Cuisine
      1614 23rd St, San Pablo, CA

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Chez Sovan has Silicon Valley diners, and presumably pays Silicon Valley rents.

        I'm sure That Luang is great, but is not really fair to compare prices in (more or less) the heart of Silicon Valley to a restaurant in San Pablo.

        1. re: fadista

          Yes, of course you're right about the difference in rents though I'd point out that this lunch time location of Chez Sovan is in a pretty gritty industrial area. I suspect that the relatively high price for the dishes here is to stay at parity with what it charges at the Chez Sovan in Campbell in nicer surroundings. Have you been to the Campbell location to offer a comparison?